I'm going to begin this blog entry with a story about my dog, Tori. Four and a half years ago, I lived on my own in Arizona. I was working towards my bachelor's degree and wanted some canine companionship. I found my companion at the Arizona Animal Welfare League: short, black, furry and friendly, when she saw me walk by her outdoor enclosure, she rushed to fence and forced her nose through the chain links, curling her long pink tongue as far as it could reach around the cold metal. She tried, in every way her doggy language permitted her, to tell me that she would make a very good friend if I would just take her home and let her try. Her many remarkably and doggy-like qualities maker her my perfect companion: energetic, social, loving and cuddly, everyone who meets Tori agrees that she is sweet and good-natured.
But there is something else that everybody agrees on: if a goat ever challenged Tori to a tire-eating contest, the dog would win, hands down. Tori will eat anything that she can fit into her mouth, edible or not, with speed quicker than Greg can say "kitchen remodel". One day we walked in on her gnawing off chunks of freshly spackled drywall. She's gotten batches of cookies, bags of chocolate, pans of brownies, many types of clothes, socks, dish towels, sticks, dirt, small rocks, fruit, nuts, and whole lemons - and yes these words are all plural as in On More Than One Occasion. She has been known to eat an entire 7lb eggplant Parmesan casserole, a platter of deli meats, and, months later, a 9x9" pan of lasagna cooling in a still-rather-warm-oven. One time the soap in the dishwasher overflowed, and I came running when I saw her eagerly slurping up the suds. Tori's teeth rather regularly pierce the heavy duty metal of dog food cans destined for recycling. Pounds of cheese, cups of butter, loafs of bread - you name it, she ate it.
Which brings me to today's post, a topic that, even one day later, is still making me tear up slightly: Tori ate the leftovers from the best dish I've made all year. Now "best dish I've made all year" (indeed, the leftovers-of) sounds like a rather bold proclamation, and it is. Maybe it was because the dish was exactly what I was craving that evening, or that I was hungry and the dish was healthy, or that it was a brand new dish, something I expected to fail, and something I made without a recipe. Or, maybe it was because the dinner actually turned out really good. Whatever it was, Tori ate it all, in her sneaky, quiet-as-a-mouse manner, while I sat 10 feet away, distracted and oblivious to the delicious food rapidly reaching her insatiable stomach.
Fortunately we ate our first helpings far before her hungry teeth reached the platter, giving me an opportunity to rave about how simple and delicious this dinner truly was. I assembled vegetable kabobs the night before (yellow pepper, red pepper, parboiled carrots, baby bellas and sweet onion) and marinated them with herbs, olive oil, garlic and balsamic overnight. The next day, I assembled baked tofu with quarted lemon slices, started the bulgur salad and left Greg to deal with the grill.
Why was this dish so good? Two words: caramelized lemons. Wow. This idea is one taken directly from 101cookbooks (my second reference in two weeks, I know), and just like sauteed versus boiled gnocchi, I can promise you I will never, ever go back to raw lemon. The juicy, sweet, grilled-marked bites of lemon were A-w-e-s-o-m-e with a capital A. Really. Seriously. Try it. Just quarter lemons and throw them on the grill with everything else - in the words of Martha Stewart, it's a good thing. Grilling these lemon chunks gave them a sweet, warm, mellow flavor that would be perfect for squeezing over any vegetable, seafood, or grain based salad.
Which brings me to the actual recipe provided here. This Bulgur salad was healthy and delicious, speckled with bits of green parsley and yellow lentils. It was easy to prepare and tasted amazing, with a nice balance of bright and mellow, salty and sweet, and chewy and tender. The flavors and textures worked well together. My only comment will be about the balsamic. I don't claim to know what makes any particular balsamic vinegar a "good" vinegar, but I do know that my cheap balsamic happens to be sharp and tart and my smaller bottle of slightly-more-expensive stuff is mellow and sweet in flavor. This recipe requires something mellow and sweet to balance with the salty, nutty Bulgur. I served this Bulgur salad warm on a big platter, surrounded by Arugula (which was a perfect spicy complement to such a mellow salad) with chunks of tomatoes and oil cured olives, and topped by the skewered kabobs whose lemon quarters served to dress the whole dish together.
I really wish I had those leftovers!!
Golden Lentil and Bulgur Salad
1/2 cup Bulgur Wheat, rinsed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 cup Yellow, or Golden, Lentils
2 cups water
1/4 cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (preferably sweet)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Suggested for serving: two cups baby arugula, olive oil for d, grilled quartered lemons and chopped cured olives
- Add olive oil to saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened, stirring frequently (about 3-4 minutes). Add Bulgur, a sprinkle of salt, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned (about 5-6 minutes)
- Meanwhile, rinse lentils and add with 1 cup water to a small saucepan. Cover and cook until tender, about 5-10 minutes.
- When Bulgur is toasted, add 1 cup water and simmer until Bulgur is al dente (about 15 minutes, depending on the size of the Bulgur). Add 3 tbsp balsamic and continue cooking until Bulgur is tender and the balsamic is absorbed*. Stir in parsley, remaining 1 tbsp balsamic, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir yellow lentils and Bulgur together. Serve warm, drizzled with extra olive oil, next to fresh baby arugula, chopped olives and grilled lemon quarters.